|Frontier School Division
Social Studies/Native Studies (SS/NS) Department
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Cross Lake and surrounding communities face many challenges, social, political, and economic. The news summaries below, organised by topic, reflect that reality. The rationale behind their inclusion is the belief that the school and its students need to be aware of local challenges and add their voices to discussion on how best to address them. In order to contribute, however, students need to be critical thinkers, able to sift through information and make sense of it. Therefore, the following news summaries are designed to model critical thinking through analysis. Each article has been reviewed and summarised with the following questions in mind. How informative is it? Does it clarify issues? Does the writer display bias? Are any questions left unanswered? What new information is revealed? How does it add to the topic at hand? Is the reader left hanging?
There could be a new nickel mine in Manitoba before long that would provide employment opportunities for the neighbouring communities of Wabowden, Cross Lake, Grand Rapids, Moose Lake, and Norway House. On 20 November 2009, Victory Nickel Inc. made a presentation at the Manitoba Mining and Minerals convention in Winnipeg to highlight a proposed new mining development at Minago, which is about halfway between Grand Rapids and Ponton near Highway 6. Victory had spent “close to $30 million developing the property over the last 10 years, and was awaiting the third-party feasibility study that “could set the table for another $450-million mining project in Northern Manitoba.” According to Rene Galipeau, Victory’s vice-chairman and CEO, “This could be a mega-project.” Indeed it could be as large as the Lalor mine, which is forecast to cost $450 million to develop. It would be an open-pit mine and require 400 people to operate it. Chris Beaumont-Smith, a senior minerals policy and business development official with the province’s Department of Innovation, Energy and Mines, said, “It could be spectacular. There is much to do before that could happen, as Victory Nickel is a junior exploration company based in Toronto with only about $5 million in the bank and no revenues to speak of.” However, if the feasibility study proved positive, it could enable the company to get financial backing from the banks. It got a boost in August 2009, when “Jilin Jien Nickel Industry Co. Ltd., China’s second-largest nickel, bought close to 20 per cent” of its shares.
The project certainly looks promising. The deposit is close to Highway 6 and to the Hudson Bay Railway (HBR), which is only about 60 kilometres away. Hydro power is also nearby. Talks have also been held with OMNItrax, which owns the HBR, about a potential business partnership. The company has also signed memorandums of understanding with three of the First Nations in the area – Grand Rapids, Cross Lake and Moose Lake – and believes it has their support.
Norway House had not come on board at time of writing, but Dave Chomiak, Manitoba’s Minister of Innovation, Energy and Mines, said that “there had been significant positive developments over the last few years between the mining industry and the aboriginal community in Manitoba.” He added, “The really good news is that the mining industry is looking for hundreds of workers in the future, and we have got a lot of people that are underemployed and a lot of First Nations people who want to be involved.”
Update (14 December 2009): Victory Nickel announced that the feasibility study for the Minago Open Pit Mine was positive. According to Rene Galipeau, this was a “major milestone” for the development of Minago. Early in 2010, the company will “create a project execution plan, begin road construction on site, select financial advisors to structure financing and submit the Environmental Impact Statement with a view of receiving environmental and operating permits before the end of 2010. In addition, consultations with local Aboriginal groups and other stakeholders can now be continued with a better understanding of the opportunities that are potentially available to local communities.”
Update (22 December 2009): Victory Nickel Inc. announced that it had expanded its property position at Minago by staking 11 additional claims at its 100%-owned project in the Thompson Nickel Belt. It now controlled the entire limestone outcrop, which will be used to produce building materials for the construction of access roads and a link to Highway 6. Building will start in the winter of 2009-2010.
Minago is one of “Canada’s largest undeveloped sulphide nickel deposits and has been shown to be capable of producing a nickel concentrate grading up to 22.3%, making it the world’s highest grade nickel concentrate. In addition to metal by-products such as copper, cobalt, gold, platinum, palladium, silver and rhodium, a layer of silica sand averaging approximately 9 metres thick overlies the nickel mineralization within the open pit. Approximately 84% of this 15 million tonne … sand resource is marketable frac sand, which is used to improve recoveries in the oil and gas industry. The frac sand forms part of the overburden that must be removed prior to mining the nickel ore.”
Discussion: How could the development of a new mine affect nearby Aboriginal communities? What additional things need to happen before this project gets underway?
Bruce Owen is to be commended for drawing the attention of Manitobans to the possibility of “an all-weather road from Manitoba to Nunavut.” The proposed road “would start in Gillam, run through Churchill and up along the Hudson Bay coast to the Nunavut communities of Arviat, Whale Cove, and Rankin Inlet.” In a 2005 study, the estimated cost of construction was $1.2 billion, a figure that would be higher now, but Nunavut Premier Eva Aariak said that the “high cost of transportation and high cost of goods and services” in Nunavut made it “necessary.” Manitoba premier Greg Selinger also indicated his interest in the economic development of the north. Noting that “winter roads just don’t last as long anymore,” because of climate change, he said that “if we’re going to develop the economy, we need the proper infrastructure and a road is a key part of that.”
The road had been under discussion for some years now.
As usual, there were differences of opinions on the value of the road. For some the focus was economic. The isolated northern communities needed a reliable transportation route to bring in food, building materials and other goods as their economies expand. For others, the focus was on the environment. They feared that an all-weather road would increase “human access to fragile wilderness areas.”
In spite of those concerns, Manitoba Premier Greg Selinger and Nunavut Premier Eva Aariak signed an agreement on Monday, November 8, that called on both their governments to begin consultations on a cost-benefit study. It also called for both governments to co-operate on health services, research on the uses of renewable energy (including technology), the development of joint tourism projects, and collaboration on culture, education and sporting activities.
Discussion: Premier Selinger noted that a major challenge would be getting Ottawa to come onboard with funding. Why might Ottawa be interested in promoting the all-weather road?
The maintenance costs of this proposed all-weather road have been estimated to be $8 to $11 million a year. The estimated yearly cost of running the new human rights museum Winnipeg is about $20 million. Like all estimates, both are probably out by many millions. However, if they are relatively close to reality, where would we be getting the biggest bang for our buck?
Consider this. The building of the railways into Western Canada sparked economic development that is still occurring after a century. What could an all-weather road do for the development of communities in Northern Manitoba and Nunavut?
Environmentalists, most of them from places outside of Northern Manitoba and Nunavut, have worked hard to prevent northern development. Their influence is particularly noticeable in Eastern Manitoba, where they have lobbied against all-weather roads that would bring economic relief to the aboriginal communities in north-eastern Manitoba. They have also used their influence to persuade the Government of Manitoba to build BiPole III on the west side of Lake Manitoba, a proposal that may ironically do more environmental damage. What arguments do you see this lobby group using to prevent the building of an all-weather road to Nunavut?
The Arctic Gateway Summit was held in Winnipeg at the beginning of November 2010 to “hammer out some key elements needed to build a viable global transportation system in the North.” Business writer Martin Cash, who has kept abreast of developments connected with CentrePort Canada, was there to cover the event.
The two-and-a-half-day conference at the University of Winnipeg was sponsored by OmniTRAX, the Denver firm that owns the Hudson Bay Railroad and the Port of Churchill. It was co-hosted by Manitoba Premier Greg Selinger and University President Lloyd Axworthy, “one of the Port of Churchill’s oldest and staunchest supporters.”
Michael Ogborn, executive vice-president of OmniTRAX Canada viewed the conference as a “critical step toward establishing a viable and sustainable transportation system in the North.” Such a system could involve the expansion of international links via the Arctic Ocean. Axworthy drew attention to the “geographic proximity … of Canada’s north to northern Russia,” which is a major argument for an “Arctic bridge” between the two. This is one key factor in the “future development potential” of CentrePort Canada, which could benefit from shorter shipping times along northern routes to Asia. Michael Ogborn underscored this point by noting that “the route from Murmansk, Russia, to Churchill is 1,447 nautical miles shorter than to Pacific ports and can cut five days off shipping times.” Considering that current transportation costs are $40,000 a day, this becomes a considerable savings.
There was a “sizable delegation from Russia, including Denis Pashkov, minister of industry and energy of the large central Russian region of Krasnoyarsk Krai.” He emphasized the need for transportation corridors and that Russia wanted to co-operate with others in this area, “not necessarily in mineral and resource development, but in mutually developing both these regions.”
Discussion: There is considerable international fear of Russian interest in the Arctic. Why are the circumpolar nations worried about that interest?
How might the United States react to an expansion of international trade routes between Russia and North America?
One of the assumptions behind the current interest in the Arctic is the widespread belief that the Arctic Ocean is going to be ice-free. How would the proposed Arctic transportation routes be affected, if that doesn’t happen?